These Road Regulations are Literally for the Birds

A female mallard makes use of the human-built world around her.

Based on 2013 data, about 270 million birds die in Canada every year as a result of human activity. And a big portion of that human activity directly involves the roads we rely so heavily upon.

To give migratory birds a wing-up on survival, the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) has released three new publications. Directed at road owners, they include approaches to lessening the impact of road infrastructure on birds and improving compliance with appropriate federal regulations.
We Know What You’re Thinking 1: cats just being cats and buildings just being buildings shoulder most of the blame for bird deaths. But transportation routes also pose serious risks, especially to migratory birds, and this goes beyond car strikes (14 million kills per year). Birds spend time on, in, or underneath roads, culverts, bridges, and other such infrastructure, so design matters. Activities like road construction and maintenance can be stressful for birds, to the detriment of breeding and nesting. And route expansion reduces habitat and food supply.

The TAC documents help road owners be proactive and plan ahead for the possibility of migratory birds being in an area, emphasizing the need to adhere to federal wildlife laws. And on top of helping bird species survive, the TAC documents help road owners avoid unexpected delays that result from not following the rules.

We Know What You’re Thinking 2: We found no numbers online for what the actual mortality effect of road infrastructure is on bird populations. There are lots of numbers and sources, however, on the cat effect. Domestic or feral, Mr. Bigglesworth and friends apparently kill from 100 million to 350 million birds a year in Canada.

We Know What You’re Thinking 3:  According to 2014 data from the Canada Wind Energy Association and Environment Canada, the annual death toll from wind turbines is about 45,000 birds in Canada. As well, mating bird pairs are displaced through habitat loss to wind farms.


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